Growing up in the farms and woods of western New York I always wanted to be outside. Every day after school, as I was able to, I would spend my afternoon in the woods with my dog. The trees of those woods became landmarks and teachers for me. From the huge sprawling willows that overshadowed the creeks to the groves of white pines and red cedars then up to oaks on the ridge. The woods was my "second home" and being outside was what I desired. The seasons always added a new perspective, from the deep greens and dark cool places of the summer to the vibrant colors of fall to the deep snows of winter and always the flush of life returned in spring.
There is another reason trees have always been part of my life, thats because I was raised by one. In Isaiah 61 the prophet talks about what Messiah will do when he comes. Isaiah talks about how Messiah will restore what has been destroyed by sin. One of the things he says Messiah will do for those who follow him is that they will be known as "oaks of righteousness". That describes my dad. Dad stood the storms of life like an oak tree. When dad lost his right hand in an accident he continued to honor and serve God with his whole being. When dad was diagnosed with cancer he continued to faithfully serve God and praise Him. Dad never slowed down or stepped back to let other younger, stronger, or faster men do the work. Dad was always showing up at work projects and was always involved. Dad never quit or complained. Dad was also known for being a leader when it comes to praying. Dad didn't trivialize prayer but actively pursued God in prayer. I can remember as a kid getting up sometimes very early in the morning and hearing Dad praying out loud to God, and Dad was always praying for his children, even as we became adults.
In November of 2016 Dad was called away to a new area of service, one that he was given a new body for, that will never fail him like the last one did.
Rev. 5:13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"
Rev. 7: 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Not that my life will end in five years, just the opposite has happened, my life was given to me five years ago. Many of you will remember that it was five years ago when I was crushed under a falling tree Monday after Thanksgiving. Those were some dark days for my family, I remember hardly none of it. Christine can tell you of Gods grace when she had no strength to carry on. It was His doing that brought us all through those days. Christine faced the possibility of raising our kids without me and our children feared the fact that Dad may not come home from the hospital. Our church and family were great during those times. It seems so far behind me now, it is hard to believe it has been five years. Most everything works as it should and that in of itself is a miracle. One of my fears now is that I might forget some of the important things I learned. I have been humbled to understand that I serve God and he doesn't serve me. I live by his decree and not by chance or luck or my own strength. Every moment, every breath is given to me by his benevolence and all I can be or become belongs to him. I have been filled with the feelings of joy and elation like I have just won a billion dollar lottery, for I have! I have something that no amount of money can ever buy, five more years! John Rockafeller, JP Morgan, and Howard Hughes would quickly give all they ever had for what I have been given, five more years. This five years has allowed me to watch my boys become men, watch my little girl become a fine young woman and has given Chris and I the best five years ever. I have been given time with my closest friends to hunt and shoot, grown close to many new friends and I have been given time to serve God. I can't say "thank you" enough or often enough. What right do I have to complain about any inconvenience or irritation? Pain or discomfort? Finances or troubles? All I have is what God sees fit to bestow on me, to Him be praise and glory and honor! I have often thought that this entire life is just a preparation for the final moment when we step out of the body and into life everlasting. Everything that happens here prepares us to trust God and live a life without fear knowing that He calls us home at His pleasure. Then on that day we will see Him face to face and fall at his feet to worship him and thank him for what he has done, that will be the final Thanksgiving day. In order to know how to live you must know where you stand.
As I travel around the Piedmont area visiting homes I often find homeowners that have "problems" with trees. The problems that some of the homeowners have stems from the fact that they have large trees and bushes that are planted very close to their homes. The problem is not with the trees but with the proximity to the house or structure. A closer evaluation reveals that when the tree was immature it looked great that close to the home but now that it has some age on it or as it reaches maturity it has begun to "impose" on the structure.
This is a sad state to be in! We are disappointed that our choice of tree has overgrown the area. Often the choice was made long before the current owners purchased the house. As we try to understand the situation we must come to grips with the fact that the tree is only living up to it's "programming". We know that the genetic code in the tree will dictate how big the tree will grow given proper sunshine, water and nutrition. Basically stated: the trees are living up to their purpose. They were designed to be big and to cast a large shadow and drop lots and lots of leaves. If there is a "problem" it is that we as humans fail to understand the purpose of the tree we picked!
As we think about trees that live according to their appointed purpose we should be asking ourselves if we are living according to our designed purpose. For many Americans we would have to say that we don't know what our real purpose is. I am not talking about our roles as fathers or mothers, brothers or sisters, or even as sons or daughters. This purpose is greater than any calling or career choice that we make. In the bible the book of Genesis says that man was created to take care of the garden but was that all that God wanted from man,just someone to keep his garden? No! there was a greater reason. We were created for fellowship with God and our lives are to bring him glory (1 Cor. 10:32).
What God desires most from us is to live in harmony with him and to be in constant fellowship. We can't live in harmony with God if there is sin in our lives. God can't have fellowship with any sinful beings even to the point of breaking fellowship with Jesus as he bore our sins on the cross. By asking for forgiveness and acknowledging Jesus as our savior and Lord we can be restored to that original purpose of fellowship(1 John 1:5-7). Are you living according to your design and purpose?
"Is there more to life than my job?" Is life more than just work, family, relationships, fun, and our homes? There is! Consider the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Yes, I am talking about God.
In his book, The Last Battle, C.S.Lewis coins the term ‘Shadow-Lands.’ The characters in his book had made the mistake of thinking that what they saw everyday was real and that the time they spent away from "real life" was just an imagination. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We live in the Shadow lands. This world isn’t reality, reality is what comes next. So what was reality for Lewis? He was a moral person and believed that there was a God. But was that enough? Sadly no, but there is more. In1931 with the help of his friends Dyson and Tolkien, he took the final step into reality - accepting the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Lewis moved from being blinded by the Shadow-Lands to accepting the truth, there is much more than we see.
Lewis goes on to write the following for those who want to believe that Jesus was just a moral teacher as he once believed:
"I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be great moral teacher. he would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:
or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Mere Christianity. 40-41
Stuck In The Shadowlands? Reality Is Coming, Believe It Or Not!
Lucy said "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." "No fear of that," said Aslan.
"Have you not guessed?" Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning"
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (The Last Battle 183-184)